Asian-American MCs Hustle for Respect in ‘Bad Rap’ Music Doc

By Sameer Rao May 23, 2017

Despite hip-hop’s global proliferation, very few Asian-American rappers reach anything close to mainstream success or even professional stability. "Bad Rap," out today (May 23) on various Video on Demand platforms, follows four MCs of East Asian descent as they chase that dream in ways as distinctive as their flows.

Dumbfoundead tries to channel his acclaim on the freestyle battle circuit, which is acknowledged by Drake in the above movie trailer, into widespread success. Rapping comedian Awkwafina fights stereotypes about Asian women’s diminutiveness through explicit and virally successful tracks. Rekstizzy challenges model minority myths with lewd, machismo-driven lyrics and music videos. Lyricks balances a desire to grow beyond his Christian roots with creative uncertainty and elder care responsibilities.

"I don’t think that I’m a spokesperson for Asian Americans at all," Awkwafina says about the pressure to fight perceptions in the trailer. "But I think that when I’m out there, I’m representing them."

"On the surface, ‘Bad Rap’ is a film about Asian-American rappers trying to make it big," director Salima Koroma, a former journalist for publications like TIME and Hip-Hop DX, told Indiewire. "But the more I spoke with artists, the more I realized their stories went far beyond the idea of becoming successful recording artists. ‘Bad Rap’ became a film about what it means to be an outcast, what it means to love something so much, but be told you can’t be part of it. It’s a story about fighting desperately for something you want despite your internal doubts and fears."

"Bad Rap" is Koroma’s debut feature documentary. It premiered at last year’s Tribeca Film Festival. Watch it via ITunes, Amazon, Vudu and Google Play.